Sunstone Symposium Features LGBT Mormons, Supportive Families
From Left to Right: Robert A. Rees, Wendy
Montgomery, and the Rev. Marian Edmunds Allen
The One Voice Choir sings "We Are Not Alone"
Wendy Montgomery: “Having a gay son has made me a better Christian, and taught me more how the Savior wants me to love.”
by Hugo Salinas
LGBT Mormons and their supportive families were featured in events related to the Sunstone Symposium held July 31 – August 4 in Salt Lake City. The week included the premiere of the documentary “Families Are Forever,” a social for LGBT Mormons, and presentations by Affirmation leaders and friends such as Wendy Montgomery, Robert A. Rees, Erika Munson, John Gustav-Wrathall, and Jerry Argetsinger. The all-inclusive One Voice Choir was featured during the Wednesday plenary session and during a special Community of Christ service held on August 4.
Wendy Montgomery received a standing ovation after the screening of Families are Forever, a documentary produced by the Family Acceptance project.
“Having a gay son has been an unexpected blessing in my life,” Montgomery told an audience of 300. “It has made me a better Christian, and taught me more how the Savior wants me to love.”
During the Q&A period, Meg Abhaus, another LDS mom, talked about her experiences raising her own gay teen son, Jon.
The 21-minute documentary will be also screened at the opening evening of the upcoming Affirmation conference. Meg and Jake Abhaus will participate in a Saturday morning workshop. The One Voice Choir will be featured during the Sunday closing luncheon.
Former LDS bishop and Affirmation friend Robert A. Rees made a connection between the documentary and the theme of the symposium, which was, “Mormon Bodies: Literal, Metaphorical, Doctrinal.”
“In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul uses an extended metaphor of the body to teach us about the body of Christ (the church and its constituent members),” Robert explained. “That image also applies to families, groups, organizations and nations—social structures in which we live and move and have our being. In reality, we belong to bodies of other bodies—individuals and groups to whom we are related or connected—biologically, socially, or spiritually.
“The documentary film Families are Forever is based on one such body, a faithful Mormon family, and its relationship to other bodies (their extended family, congregation, community and church). All of these bodies, to follow Paul’s metaphor, are interrelated and co-dependent—and the health of all is dependent on the health of each individual member. What Families are Forever illustrates is that the healthy functioning of each of these bodies is dependent on love and that when individual members of these bodies fail to love other members, fail to nourish and sustain any member within the body, both the individual bodies and the body as a whole suffer.”
During her remarks, Mormons Building Bridges Founder Erika Munson invited the audience to send emails to three members of the Quorum of the Twelve to thank them for the launching of the website MormonsAndGays.org. The apostles are: D. Todd Christofferson (ChristoffersonDT [at] LDSchurch.org), Dallin H. Oaks (OaksDH [at] LDSchruch.org), and Quentin L. Cook (CookQL [at] LDSchurch.org).
Affirmation Vice President John Gustav-Wrathall attended the Thursday LGBT social with his husband Göran and his parents. At the conclusion of the social, he shared with the 75 people in attendance some of the experiences that affirmed his faith in God and led him to return to the LDS Church. “Our lives are mixed up with good and bad, with pain and joy,” John concluded. “Consider letting go of anger. Consider making an experiment upon the word and seeing where it leads. It might be the hardest thing you have ever tried. As for me, it has brought forth fruit a hundredfold.”
On Thursday, Affirmation board member Gregory A. Prince delivered a “Pillars of My Faith” plenary speech. As an example of how scientific knowledge can help the Church change, Greg invited the audience to consider “the recent about-face that the Church laudably made in acknowledging, in the face of rapidly accumulating and overwhelming evidence from science, that homosexuality is not chosen.”
“Where science can inform, it eventually will inform,” Greg added, “and religionists will save themselves and their followers a lot of grief if they allow the process to occur naturally.”
The Salt Lake Tribune featured Affirmation friend Jerry Argetsinger, a gay Mormon man and stake high councilor who, along with his wife Gail, was for years involved in directing and designing the costumes for the Hill Cumorah pageant.
“Jerry is still my best friend,” Gail Argetsinger told The Salt Lake Tribune. “We have done so many church callings and produced so much art together.”